Yesterday I got what I would consider a bad haircut. It’s not that it looks awful – it’s just that it’s way shorter than I had hoped. And when you have curly hair, short is not always a good thing.
Let me say that I am not one who is all that particular about my looks. I rarely wear make-up. Don’t color my hair or change its style (unless by accident!!) And am not into fashion. The bulk of my wardrobe consists of clothes that my mother or sister have donated to my cause.
Having said this, you wouldn’t think that the new hair-do would phase me too much. But it has. In fact, every time I see my “new self” in the mirror, it sends me on a downward thought spiral. Sure, I know that it will grow back, but right now that is not much consolation. And besides, it only lasts until I have to go by the mirror again, which happens every time I use the bathroom or walk into my bedroom (which right now feels like too many times in my book!)
Anyway, this whole incident has left me thinking about how much stock we put in our physical appearances – and how much control it can wield over our mental and emotional state, at times without our even realizing it. For example, how many different times did you look in a mirror today? Think about it. Do you have one over the sink in your bathroom? Over the dresser in your bedroom? Is there a full-length one behind your closet door? Maybe you even have one in the entry way as I’ve noticed in many people’s homes. If you own a car, there’s a good chance you caught a glimpse of yourself in the rear-view mirror or perhaps pulled down the visor and checked yourself out there. And many women carry a pocket mirror in their purses. So honestly, how many times did you look at and/or concern yourself with your physical appearance today? And if you didn’t like what you saw, how did it affect your attitude and outlook for the rest of the day?
I probably wouldn’t think too much of our “rampant” use of mirrors if it weren’t for the fact that during the four weeks that I spent in Ghana earlier this year, rarely did I ever see myself in a mirror. At the children’s home where I stayed there was no mirror in my bedroom or the bathroom either. I believe that the children had some small, hand-held mirrors; but I’m not really sure. For me, if I wanted to check my appearance, I actually had to use my camera to take a picture of myself.
I think the women in Ghana are for the most part, every bit as concerned with their appearances as we are in the US, and I’m sure they use mirrors. But to me, those four weeks were liberating! Not having to look at myself all the time, not being reminded of the bags under my eyes when I don’t have on concealer, or the grey hairs that are starting to come in (well, until the children started pulling them out that is!), or the few extra pounds it would be nice to shed, or the numerous other things I could find to dislike if I looked long enough. I’m sure I wasn’t looking my very best, but the children I spent time with didn’t seem to mind in the least, and I felt free!
In 2011, it is estimated that Americans spent over $10 billion on cosmetic surgery. Much more was spent on cosmetics in general. We live in a culture that is obsessed with outward appearances, and to many, it is a form of slavery. People are willing to go under the knife, undertaking risky procedures to change their appearance, because they believe it will make them happier or more fulfilled. But I have my doubts. In fact, perhaps when we are most unhappy with our outer appearance, it’s really a reflection of how we are feeling about our inner “appearance.”
I think it’s easier to “fix” ourselves on the outside rather than do the work that is necessary to change ourselves on the inside. In James 1:22-25, James talks about the Bible as being a mirror that allows us to see ourselves for who we really are. He also gives us two options for how we can respond to what we see. We can either notice what a mess we are and walk away without making any changes (something most of us would never do with our physical person!) Or we can “fix up” our inner person until the reflection in the “mirror” is more pleasing.
I believe that all women want to feel beautiful. But it’s the beauty on the inside that matters the most – especially to God. It’s this type of beauty, not the outer kind, that will bring about His kingdom.
So the next time you’re feeling overly concerned, frustrated or disappointed with your outer appearance, stop and take a moment to ask how concerned you are with your inner person. Then step away from your physical mirror and take a look into the spiritual one – God’s Word. There you will find all of the “beauty treatments” that you need, and it won’t cost you a thing – except the time and effort to put it into practice.
And if my hunch is correct, the more beautiful you feel on the inside, the more beautiful you will feel on the outside. For you will understand that God’s standard of beauty is very different from what you see on the magazine covers and in the commercials. And His standard is the only one worth emulating, the only one that brings true freedom.